SPU to host Tent City 3 during Winter Quarter

Seattle Pacific’s population will increase by about 100 people next quarter, but the new residents won’t be students, and they won’t be staying long. SPU will host Tent City 3, a moving camp for the homeless, on Wallace Field from Jan. 21 to March 24.

The official announcement came on Nov. 23 in a campus-wide email from Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Les Steele. Tent City 3 is run by the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort and the Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League.

The camp is self-contained and self-managed; it has its own shower and portable toilet facilities. Residents of the camp are in charge of the camp’s day-to-day needs.

Since the camp supports itself, Dr. Jordan said, the residents will not need access to any SPU buildings or facilities other than the field.

“They’re not looking to come here to utilize the facilities,” he said. “On the other hand, we are open to the public in many different places on campus.

“So my hope is that they will take advantage of what we have to offer, in a good way, whether that be attending a basketball game, whether they come into the [Student Union Building] and have a cup of coffee [or] whether that’s utilizing our library. We’re not a closed community.”

The only time when Tent City 3 residents may need to seek shelter indoors would be if the temperature drops below 32 degrees. Even then, Dr. Jordan said, only 40 or 50 percent of residents would likely do so, according to conversations campus officials have had with SHARE/WHEEL officials.

SHARE/WHEEL has been operating tent cities since 1990, and Tent City 3 has been in existence since 2000. It moves every three months and will come to SPU from the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Shoreline.

Bringing Tent City 3 to SPU has been two years in the making, said Dean of Student Life Dr. Jeff Jordan. Alumni Chris Kyle, Danielle Richmond and Caleb Richmond presented the idea to President Dr. Philip Eaton in 2009, who thought it was a good idea and passed it on to Director of Facilities Dave Church and Dr. Jordan to bring the project to life.

After considering Wallace Field, a parking lot and the area of Tiffany Loop that borders Marston/Watson Hall, officials decided to use the Wallace grass field by Nickerson Street that is fenced in and surrounded by a track, Dr. Jordan said.

But now that a location has been chosen, specifics have to be nailed down.

“There are some basic-needs things that have to happen,” Dr. Jordan said.

In preparation for Tent City 3’s arrival, officials have to decide how to get electricity and running water to the site, as well as decide where on Wallace Field the camp will be set up, both to maximize the camp’s efficiency and still allow for campus use of the field, Dr. Jordan said.

Officials are convinced Wallace Field is “the best place for our institution, as well as the best place for Tent City 3 folks in regard to what they need,” he said.

Along with readying Wallace Field for its transformation into a temporary camp for the homeless, Dr. Jordan emphasized the need to ready students, faculty and staff through education for the camp’s arrival.

“We need to continue to prepare the campus community,” he said. “We’re working on a website right now, trying to get that up, as far as just answering basic questions. … We want to try to answer questions and to educate.”

Part of this preparedness includes deciding how much interaction officials will encourage between the campus community and the camp.

In his announcement email, Dr. Steele said Dr. Jordan “is leading a committee that will give oversight to the visit and provide both service and learning opportunities for all of us.”

Dr. Jordan seemed optimistic about the opportunities students will have to interact with residents of the makeshift city.

“I think it goes back to our mission,” he said. “I think it goes back to our signature commitments [and] the ethos of this place. This is really an opportunity for us to learn more about homelessness.”

Dr. Jordan cited campus events and organizations such as Urban Plunge, Latreia and City Quest as examples of the service SPU already does in the local community.

“I think this is a part of who we are – it’s a part of our DNA,” he said.

Junior Stephanie Durborough agreed that hosting Tent City 3 is congruent with the SPU mission.

“I think this is a chance to do what we’ve been saying about engaging the culture and bringing it to our campus,” she said.

However, not all students were as excited about Tent City 3’s arrival.

“Despite the fact that I have a heart for the homeless, I do not think that an educational institution is the proper place to host Tent City,” senior Morgan Wierleski said.

Sophomore Marissa Christensen said that although students may be scared, they should still be open to hosting the camp.

“I think it will open some minds,” she said. “I think some people are scared, but I don’t see why we can’t share our track. I think it’s a good idea.”

Dr. Jordan said weekly forums will likely be held in conjunction with Tent City 3’s residence on campus, and students will have the opportunity to tour the city, as well as serve meals to residents and possibly even do laundry for them.

“There’s so much that can be done, so we’re trying to figure out what all those things are,” he said.

SPU will be the second college to host Tent City 3. It was at Seattle University in February 2005. Tent City 3 was there for one month, rather than the three-month period it will be at SPU.

Student involvement there included hosting a Super Bowl party for residents, according to the Seattle University website. During Tent City 3’s time at Seattle University, it received a large amount of media attention.

It was the inspiration for multiple editorials in <i>The Seattle Times</i> and the <i>Seattle Post-Intelligencer</i> and garnered coverage from national syndicates such as the Associated Press.

“We were able to serve Tent City and learn from Tent City residents in such a way that homelessness became more easily understood as an issue and a challenge,” said Dr. Joe Orlando, Seattle University assistant vice president for Mission and Ministry and head of the committee that brought Tent City 3 to Seattle University.

Providing hospitality and service to the residents allowed stereotypes to be broken and students to go beyond the “stereotypical understanding” of homelessness, Dr. Orlando said in a phone interview.

He commended SPU for deciding to host Tent City 3, saying, “I’m confident it’s going to be a tremendous learning and growing experience for students, faculty, staff, alumni and the neighboring community.”

Despite the attention the camp may receive on campus, Tent City 3 residents do not have any special expectation of the camp experience at SPU, said Jarvis Capucion, Tent City 3 resident and camp bookkeeper.

Almost none of the current residents lived in the camp when it was at Seattle University, he said.

He said the camp’s doors are open to SPU students.

“We’d like to have the community involved and aware of what is going on,” he said. “Everyone is welcome to stop by and check us out.”

Just as Tent City 3 residents have no preconceived notions about their experience at SPU, Capucion said the campus community should not expect anything out of the ordinary either.

“We’re just regular people,” he said. “There’s really nothing to expect.”

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Title: SPU to host Tent City 3 during Winter Quarter | Author: Liviu Bird | Section: News | Published Date: 2011-11-30 | Internal ID: 7923